The Battle of Zaruthstra, 4047 AD, and in the pit of war, amidst the gunfire and explosions, a young boy lies injured. A woman tends him but the lad desperately needs medical help. Time is running out and it looks like the situation is lost when a Sontaran appears. But then something remarkable happens. He removes his helmet and calmly asks, ‘Did somebody call for a nurse?’ We’ve just met Strax…
Considering he’s a member of a clone race, Commander Strax is a remarkable individual. We’ve seen the Doctor encounter many Sontarans and whilst every other member of this belligerent species has been guided by a single-minded passion for war, Strax is a nurse. And a good one. We’ve witnessed him save the life of a child in a warzone, give medical advice to a weary soldier and Strax even had himself gene-spliced so he could be fit for all nursing duties. When baby Melody appeared to need a feed he proudly declared, ‘I can produce magnificent quantities of lactic fluid!’
I’ve declared war on the Moon!Strax
He told a puzzled Captain Harcourt why he was helping those he would normally attempt to destroy. ‘I serve a penance to restore the honour of my clone batch,’ he explained. ‘It is the greatest punishment a Sontaran can endure… to help the weak and the sick.’ It’s strongly implied that the Doctor invented this ‘punishment’ and was responsible for Strax’s switch from military commander to medic.
But the warrior within Strax still remains and he is no pacifist. At the Battle of Demons Run he threw himself into the fight with a gutsy enthusiasm and his bellicose background is never far from the fore, even when he’s addressing his patients. When one of them asked if he was going to be okay, Strax cheerily replied, ‘Of course you will, my boy! You’ll be up and about in no time! And perhaps one day, you and I shall meet on the field of battle and I shall destroy you for the glory of the Sontaran Empire!’
Strax helped the Doctor defeat the Great Intelligence in 1892 and during this adventure we saw how much he relishes working alongside him. Although exasperated by the Time Lord’s ‘retirement’ he was delighted when the game was once more afoot and even felt comfortable teasing his friend about his brief impersonation of Sherlock Holmes!
The Doctor next encountered his Sontaran comrade in Yorkshire, 1893 when fighting the evil Mrs Gillyflower and the monstrous Mr Sweet. Strax was once again assisting Madame Vastra and seemed content to take orders from the Silurian. He was able to save Jenny and the Doctor from the so-called ‘attack of the supermodels’, racing into battle with laser blasting and a familiar roar of ‘Sontar-ha!’
During the course of that adventure we also found out a little about how Strax views himself. When Vastra told Jenny, ‘Sweetville’s proprietor holds recruit drives for her little community. She’s only interested in the fittest and the most beautiful.’ Strax immediately came back with, ‘You may rely on me, madam…’